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Anemia & Depression
(Someone tell me you get this reference! Hehe)
Shortly before Christmas I felt so depressed that I knew it was time to talk to my family doctor about it. Looking for a new psychiatrist after my last one left his practice due to illness was still not turning up any leads, and despite all my efforts to cope better, my extra debilitating depression just wasn't shifting. I've barely left the house in the past few months, I've stopped hanging out with friends, and I eventually thought, "Hmm, maybe my meds have stopped working?"
So I went to talk to my doctor. She assessed my depression and thought it sounded like my meds maybe needed adjusting. She also gave me a requisition to get my blood tested to make sure I'm in good physical health.
The holiday season deferred my visit to the medical lab. I had so much to do and then the lab kept such stupid holiday hours that when I finally got my butt down there they were closed. Anyway, I went last Thursday and Friday, my doctor's office called to say I needed to come in to discuss my blood.
I've never seen or heard my doctor laugh so much before my appointment on Monday. It was kind of ridiculous. Don't worry, she wasn't laughing at me or being mean in any way. She was laughing at my blood test results like she couldn't believe I was still alive. A medical miracle!
"So, here are your results," she said. She pointed to several readings that were flagged in my chart as being too low. "Normal hemoglobin levels for women are between 120 and 160," she said. "Yours is at...6!!!" BAHAHAHA!!!
"That is really really really low," she added, composing herself. "You're anemic and basically no oxygen is getting to your major organs. You need to take iron supplements daily for a few months to fix this."
Oops. This explains...everything. Why I haven't been able to get out of bed for months. Why I haven't been leaving the apartment or having the energy to go out with friends. Why I'm always cold and looking like Wednesday Adams (okay, so that last one is a joke. I've always looked like her!). Why my headaches have been more intense than they have in years. And worsened mood, you betcha, is a symptom of anemia. My symptoms of anemia totally overlap with the symptoms of depression.
I am so thankful that my doctor thought to check my blood! It's no wonder I've been feeling like garbage all day every day for months.
Yet, which comes first, the chicken or the egg? In this case, I haven't been eating either enough chickens or eggs. Not enough fruits and veggies. Not enough iron rich foods. I stopped giving a shit about what I was eating around the time I stopped caring about being alive anymore in the spring.
My triggers in the spring = worsened depression in the summer = poor eating habits like having only one thing for dinner and ignoring the other food groups. Poor eating habits = anemia by the winter of 2014, causing worsened depression. AGH!
Depression is sneaky this way. It can be the cause of otherwise inexplicable aches and pains, and it can affect one's energy levels dramatically. Two of depression's main symptoms are sleep disturbances, like insomnia or oversleeping, and disturbances in appetite, like lack of interest in food or overeating. My lack of interest in food has its consequences.
Mental health and physical health go hand-in-hand, something I routinely forget. I tend to avoid letting myself even think about nutrition, lest I swing back towards obsessing about food like I did during my years with eating disorders. I think, "I'm eating three meals a day! What else do you want from me?"
I need to work on balance and mindfulness with my eating. And communication with my doctor is key. I'm so thankful to know what's wrong so that I can fix it!
And might do a bit more ironing, just in case.
Erin Schulthies is the writer of Daisies and Bruises, a blog about "finding her way one step and one word at a time". After losing most of her youth to severe depression, she decided that since death was no longer an option, she had to find a way to live. This is it.